CONSISTENT: Despite its rising popularity, Village Park owner is reluctant to expand
PETALING JAYA: MOHD Shamil Ngoh Abdullah's day starts at 4am every day, preparing ingredients and cooking for the crowd that has been waiting outside his restaurant from 6am.
Accustomed to the restaurant's daily crowd, Village Park customers never complain when there are lack of seats as they wait patiently.
First opened in 2002, the restaurant now receives more than 500 customers on weekdays and about 3,000 over weekends and on public holidays.
"I have no plans for expansion at the moment. To do so, I would need more cooks and the problem is, I am very fussy and like to do things myself," Shamil said.
His fussiness and precision in choosing his ingredients paid off when prominent figures like former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak came to eat at his restaurant.
"Tun likes the nasi lemak and the PM likes the assam laksa," Shamil said.
Village Park serves Singapore mee rebus, Penang prawn mee, assam laksa, curry mee, nasi dagang and many other local delicacies but is most famous for its nasi lemak with either beef or chicken rendang, spiced fried chicken, squid, clam or prawn.
There is also the Malaysian breakfast of half-boiled eggs with kaya toasts and mamak dishes for its lunchtime crowd.
Shamil's nasi lemak has been dubbed as the best in Klang Valley many times by Time Out magazine and food blogs.
Village Park has also been featured twice in TV3's Jalan-Jalan Cari Makan programme and other food channels in Singapore and Hong Kong as well as articles in magazines, newspapers and travel blogs.
Even as the Streets interview was taking place, an Asian Food Channel crew was shooting for one of its television programmes.
Shamil's nasi lemak rice is special because they are fluffy instead of sticky.
"Even young children, who normally don't have big appetites would ask for a whole plate of nasi lemak rice with just a fried egg," he said.
To get this result, Shamil uses three types of rice -- basmati, fragrant and local rice -- to help keep the rice fluffy and not sticky.
He does not use too much coconut milk, which causes the rice to be too rich, but uses coconut water instead, giving aroma to the rice.
The sambal, which is not too spicy and not sweet like in some nasi lemak, is made of dry chilli instead of chilli paste.
Shamil also uses fresh chicken instead of frozen ones to ensure juiciness. Among the nasi lemak side dishes, the spiced fried chicken is always the first to finish.
"We can find nasi lemak everywhere in this country, from fancy restaurants to roadside stalls, with different styles and tastes as people have different preferences," Shamil acknowledged, explaining that the dish is a symbol of Malaysia as even foreigners know about it.
Shamil, a Singaporean, was in the music business and was staying overseas when his Terengganu-born wife decided to return and open a small cafe.
Shamil immediately agreed as he loved to cook and experiment with food.
Wanting to focus only on local dishes, he travelled to villages to learn cooking traditional delicacies and listened to customers' comments to impove his cooking skills.
For his nasi dagang, Shamil at first used the Terengganu recipe but customers were not very fond of the glutinous rice. When he switched to the Kelantanese way of preparing the rice, customers did not like the way the tuna (ikan tongkol) gravy was prepared.
To make everyone happy, he combined the best of both.
Despite the restaurant's popularity, he said that there is always room for improvement and he is constantly finding ways to improve his menu.
He does this by looking for other local dishes to add to the menu.
Shamil also pays a lot of attention to the beverages. A coffee lover, he made sure that he gets the best coffee from Ipoh. He also claims to be the inventor of Blend Bandung and Milo Dinosaur, which are now popular in many coffee shops.
He has had enquiries to open shop in London and China but being the fussy cook that he is, he declined.
"I just want to make sure that my food has that consistent taste," he said.
Village Park is located at 5, Jalan SS21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya.
It opens at 6.30am to 7.30pm daily and from 7am to 6pm on Sundays and public holidays. Call 03 - 7710 7860.